Mindfulness is totally brilliant at sorting out difficult stuff that’s affecting you (and it’s one of the reason’s I use it). This guide explains how I used it to improve my relationship with both Mum and Dad.
Watch the video (its one of my early ones so a bit rough around the edges) or read the blurb … or do both as there are slight differences…
How mindfulness helped with Mum
My relationship with Mum had been fraught with tension for years and it was one that frequently made me feel very angry. Ever since I was a small, Mum had leaned on me for emotional stability. But by the time I was 18 years old I felt that this reliance was stifling me.
Not surprisingly I couldn’t wait to leave home! But even after I left, I could still feel her clinging onto me. This fuelled my anger and resentment towards her as I mentally shouted LET ME GO!
For years I kept on sweeping all this emotion under the carpet, but eventually, it dawned on me that “t didn’t have to be this way.
I didn’t have to keep feeling this horrible before, during and after every conversation we had.
“OK”, I thought. I can’t change my mother, but what can I change about myself that would stop me feeling so angry?
I discovered that the answer to that was mindfulness. It shone a different light on the problem, which made it easier to tackle.
With Mindfulness, I could see my Mum in a new light
Firstly I needed to understand why Mum acted as she did.
Why was she so full of negative assumptions, thoughts, emotions?
Why was she so intractable when I suggested possible alternative ways of looking or doing things?
So, I used my mindfulness practice to build myself a mental picture of Mum.
I wanted to get a feel for how she felt and an understanding of how she ended up like this.
I started by thinking about her early life. Her Mum (my grandmother), gave her away to be brought up by a dragon of an Aunt.
How would being given away like an unwanted piece of clothing make ME turn out? Not so different from her perhaps?
To help me, I imagined Mum as a dried-up, twisted old tree. This tree was rigid and couldn’t move or change.
If that tree was to have any chance of recovering it needed tender loving care. It needed feeding and watering!!!
This was a revelation to me, but a good one as it gave me something to work with.
Mindfulness transformed ‘angry and resentful’ to ‘more chilled and sympathetic’
My next challenge was preventing aggravation igniting inside me and replacing it with a more chilled and sympathetic vibe. I used my mindfulness to notice if the ‘grrrrr’ feeling was starting to arise and NIP IT IN THE BUD.
Easy to plan for this… not so easy to do at first…. but my Mum gave me lots of opportunities to practice, LOL, so it became easier with time.
Now I was able to talk and be with her in a much calmer more empathetic way, Mum felt listened to, heard, cared about and she became less anxious and clingy.
This became a virtuous circle, because with less clinging, I felt freer and able to be much more fluid, much more kind in my responses to her. In my mental tree image of her, every time I felt she was easier to deal with, a green leaf grew.
Now I would like to say that that tree converted itself into a swaying willow packed with green leaves. But it didn’t. My Mum was the same person she always was and accepting that reality was part of what mindfulness helped me with….and still helps me with today.
How mindfulness helped with Dad
At the same time that I was working on improving my relationship with Mum, I also worked on my relationship with Dad.
He was a product of his generation so he thought that daughters should be brought up by their mothers. The lack of time we spent together was something that deprived us both. As he was getting quite elderly, if I didn’t take some action to deepen our relationship soon, it could become a source of deep regret.
Again I used mindfulness to better understand my Dad and the tree imagery idea came in handy once more as I pictured him as a lone tree in a prairie of grass.
Sadly, because he developed dementia, I was too late to improve our relationship as much as I would have liked. But at least my mindful examination of it meant that I had no regrets, beyond perhaps wishing I had discovered mindfulness years before.
My Dad has now passed on but I still use part of my mindfulness practice to ‘stay in touch’ with him and remember him.
I love to hear from you! Any questions about this blog, meditation or mindfulness do email me. I look forward to hearing from you! xx Annya
P.S. If your difficult relationships are more with yourself or your partner then take a look at TLC time.